Reinventing traditional folk songs to stunning effect
Expect a raucous good time when fun Irish collective The Mary Wallopers bring their jolly band to the Portland Arms next week.
Brothers Charles and Andrew Hendy and friend Sean McKenna formed The Mary Wallopers as a three-piece ballad band touring Ireland far and wide. The now-expanded band’s debut gigs exuded raw energy and their five-track debut EP – 2019 A bite of the Mary Wallopers – perfectly captured their sound and philosophy.
Fast forward a few years and the Mary Wallopers now have a new album on the way – their self-titled debut album – due out digitally and on CD on October 28, days before their Cambridge release.
“We recorded some demos the other day, but other than that we’re just getting ready for the tour,” Andrew said, speaking to the Cambridge Independent from Dundalk, where the band is based. Charles intervenes: “We are preparing [for the tour] drinking many pints.
Cod Liver Oil + Orange Juice, released on September 29, is the second track taken from the album. The 11-track LP is the culmination of years of The Wallopers touring the four corners of Ireland, collecting traditional songs before dusting them off and reimagining them in their rehearsal space.
Cod Liver Oil + Orange Juicefor example, is a Scottish song written by Ron Clark and Carl MacDougal and made popular by Hamish Imlach in the 1960s. A fan favorite, this ode to drunken revelry and its associated romantic pursuits showcases the Wallopers’ talent for choosing a good tune and then own it.
The song is certainly very catchy. “Oh, thank you very much,” says Charles, who notes of the album, “We recorded the first album in 2017, then we never bothered to release it, then we re-recorded it, I think, in 2020, so we’ve been sitting on it for quite a while, during lockdown.
Charles and Andrew live together. “We are two brothers, we do everything together – and I mean everything!” Charles laughs, “and we were able to do recordings during lockdown, and we were doing live streams, so that was good.”
He adds that many of the songs on the album are familiar to fans, as the band has been playing them live for a few years. “They’re kind of like our greatest hits, because people always come to the shows and sing along to the songs.”
We certainly imagine The Mary Wallopers creating a party atmosphere when they perform on stage. “Yeah, they can go wild,” confirms Charles, who says the band will start recording their second album “very soon.”
“At the last concert, there were people spitting on each other. We had a gig where a man actually had his feet on the ceiling, as opposed to the floor…”
The Mary Wallopers toured the UK in February this year and also played Glastonbury “a few times”. “In 2019 we did 159 shows,” Charles recalled, “we were playing constantly, playing all the time, and this will be our most organized tour.”
“The Mary Wallopers summons the noisy ghosts of the Dubliners and Pogues to startling effect,” said The Guardian of the group. What other acts influenced Charles and Andrew and co? “Jinx Lennon, a songwriter and singer from Dundalk here,” Andrew replies, “the Pogues and the Dubliners are obviously huge influences…
“We also listen to different music; we grew up listening to a lot of 80s Jamaican dancehall, and also a lot of punk and hip hop – and country, and western. Hank Williams too…” On the popularity of country music in Ireland, Charles, who reveals he’s actually wearing a Garth Brooks t-shirt right now (despite not being a huge fan of the singer ), adds: “Since the beginning of time, farmers loved line dancing.
The Mary Wallopers will perform at the Portland Arms on Wednesday, November 2. Tickets cost £11. For more information, visit theportlandarms.co.uk. To learn more about The Mary Wallopers, visit marywallopers.com.